Aviva Schalit: This nation's unwritten covenant is cracking

Mother of captured IDF soldier calls on Israeli leaders to keep their promises to do everything possible to bring Gilad home.

schalit rally flags 248.88 ap (photo credit: )
schalit rally flags 248.88 ap
(photo credit: )
Before Aviva Gilad heads out to vote on February 10, she wants to be able to hug her son Gilad, who has been held in Gaza since June 2006. In hopes of pressuring the government to secure a deal for his release before the election, Aviva spoke on Wednesday night in Tel Aviv to an audience of women at an event organized by the Desert Queen jeep expedition program. "This is a last-minute plea," she said, addressing her words to Prime Minister Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, even though they were not in the auditorium. "Before you leave the government or ask to be reelected, stand behind your promises," Aviva said. She spoke so softly that it was hard to hear her, until the microphone was adjusted. She told the audience she wanted to speak with them "as a mother to other mothers" and as "a woman to other women." "Like most of you, I sent my son to serve his country out of the belief that it in turn would do everything that it could to return him," she said, but that has not happened. Since tank gunner Gilad, who is now 22, was kidnapped 948 days ago, "there have been two wars, personnel changes in the government and the army, a cease-fire, rockets, Grad missiles, mortar shells and God knows what else," Aviva said. But, "one thing has not changed. My son Gilad is still imprisoned by Hamas." The family last heard from him in June 2007, when Hamas allowed him to send them a letter. On Tuesday, her husband Noam met in Paris with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and was told that Gilad was alive. Still, she said, more information was needed, given that the Red Cross had not visited him, no one had seen him and there had been no word from someone who had actually seen him. "No one knows if he is healthy, if he is sick, if he is cold, how he is sleeping, or can he see the sun," she said. "I do not know anything and there is no one in the world who can give me answers." Since the creation of the state there has been an unwritten covenant between the IDF and the mothers of its soldiers, one that is so strong that it might as well be etched in stone, she said. "We give you our sons and daughters, and the IDF returns them to us at the end of their service. They are not always healthy, they are not always whole, and sometimes they are not alive, but they always, always, return home," Aviva said. Many of the older teenagers who were about to be drafted were paying close attention to Gilad's fate and the actions of the government to secure his release, she said. "I have no doubt that this impacts their motivation to serve, she said. "They also want to know if the government will keep its covenant with the soldiers," she said. Already, she said, "I feel as if this covenant is slipping from my hand." "The faith between the mothers in this country and its leadership has cracked," she added. The soldiers who went into Gaza said that for them the battle was not over until Gilad had returned home, she noted. To Olmert, Barak and Livni, she said, "Do not leave this mission to those who come after you." Wednesday's protest was just one of a number of events that the family and their supporters have planned. They plan to rally on behalf of Gilad on Thursday evening at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, close to northern Gaza.